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Belize's main airport closes, evacuations ordered ahead of Hurricane Richard

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Belize's main airport closes, evacuations ordered ahead of Hurricane Richard

2010-10-25 05:23:45 GMT+7 (ICT)

LADYVILLE, BELIZE (BNO NEWS) -- Authorities in Belize on Sunday announced the closure of the country's busiest airport and ordered tourists and residents to evacuate coastal areas ahead of Hurricane Richard.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Richard was located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south-southeast of Belize City, the largest city in Belize. It was moving toward the west-northwest near 20 kilometers (13 miles) per hour, a general motion which is expected to continue through Monday.

Meteorologists at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Richard has maximum sustained winds near 150 kilometers (90 miles) per hour with higher gusts, making it a category one hurricane.

Ahead of the expected landfall in Belize, authorities have announced evacuation and relocation plans for all in-country travelers and travelers who are planning to visit Belize in the coming days.

In the Toledo District, located in the southernmost region of Belize, authorities have closed all hotels and evacuated residents and travelers to safe grounds. In northern Belize, people have been evacuated to shelters.

"For those choosing to not evacuate, area shelters have been set up by [the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO)] along the coast starting from the areas of Golden Stream, Deep River area in Toledo, and the Stann Creek District, where Richard is expected to make landfall this evening," the Belize Tourism Board said in a statement.

In addition to the evacuations, NEMO has ordered the suspension of all public in-country transport operations, except for buses that will complete their runs to the north at 2 p.m. local time. Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, the nation's most busiest airport, has also been closed until at least Monday morning.

Forecasters expect Richard to make landfall in Belize on late Sunday evening, after which it will rapidly weaken. "Since the center will be crossing the coastline in a couple of hours, significant additional strengthening is now unlikely prior to landfall," said Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center. "Steady weakening will commence after the center moves inland this evening."

"Hurricane conditions are [already] spreading over portions of the coast of Belize with tropical storm conditions occurring over portions of the coast of southeastern Mexico in the tropical storm warning area," Pasch added.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, a hurricane warning is in effect for Belize. Additionally, a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning are in effect for the east coast of Yucatan, Mexico from Punta Gruesa to Chetumal.

After moving inland on Sunday, Richard is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm as it enters the extreme northern part of Guatemala. Eventually, Richard will move over a part of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as it weakens to a tropical depression before entering the Gulf of Mexico where it should weaken to a post-tropical depression.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2010-10-25

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